It’s taken me a day to process the scene that we encountered at the school yesterday. It was worse than any of us had dared to imagine.
As we moved through the Herber Settlement, we stopped at the armoury in order to procure some weapons. One shotgun was not going to do us any good against a horde; especially one composed of chipmunks and other rodents in various stages of decomposition.
The street was littered with skeletal corpses; some of them still moving, others blessedly and completely dead. What a horrible death it must have been. The attack would have been swift but to feel all of those little mouths feeding off of your flesh would have been terrifying and so very, very painful. We took the time to bestow a final dignity to all of the former survivors of the Herber Settlement. There was no way that we could have determined who was laying (un)dead in the streets so we just kept moving forward.
It was really slow going once we got to those areas that had been more densely populated at the time of the breach. It reminded me of the photos I had once seen of a cemetery that had flooded. For some reason the flooding had caused the caskets of the inhabitants to rise to the surface. As a result of the age of the wood and it’s decomposition in the ground, some of the skeletons ended up exposed to the elements. To an individual who first saw the disturbance, perhaps it looked like the dead were rising. Perhaps they were aware that such a phenomenon could occur. Whatever the case, it must have been a creepy sight; I know the pictures certainly were.
As we were walking, it started to get dark and the street lights didn’t come on; the power grid must be offline. As a precaution for our own safety, we decided to stop for the night. It just wasn’t safe to move at night; we didn’t have any flashlights to light our way and we had no desire to get ambushed while traversing in the dark.
We chose one of the vacant houses fairly close to the school. Since it was vacant, it likely had not been breached by any unwanted visitors. Regardless of our logic, we were still extremely careful as we entered the house.
Once inside, we were greeted by a surprising sight; 9 other survivors had managed to escape the tide of undeath as it swept through the settlement. Among them was Lt. Lafferty. We were both surprised and elated to see her!
Lt. Lafferty told us that she had been working, doing rounds of the settlement as one of the peace officers when she happened to notice the commotion happening up the street. Not taking any chances, she had immediately thought to seek refuge indoors. Other like-minded individuals noticed what she was doing and followed along behind her. Her quick thinking has saved all of their lives that day.
Not that Lafferty thought of herself as a hero; far from it in fact. Privately she let us know that more people had followed them to the house. Unfortunately so had the furry harbingers of undeath. Having to choose between a horrible death and potential survival, she chose survival for herself and the eight people holed up with her. It was a hard decision and one I knew would weigh heavily on her mind. I had made a similar decision at the library and I haven’t yet told you about the cacophony of knocking and screaming that sounded off just beyond the threshold of the library’s oaken doors. The memory of those desperate, frantic pleas to open the door will haunt me for a very long time.
All of those ‘what if’ moments just collect in your subconscious until the moment you close your eyes. Then your mind does everything in its power to sabotage any effort at sleep you make. It certainly sucks, that’s for sure.
Our night passed uneventfully. Most of us tried to sleep but in the end, we found ourselves chasing away the ghosts of our friends. As each of us reached the point where we could no longer just lie there, we got up and gathered in the living room. We sat in silence, each of us likely thinking of those we had loved and lost. It was a sombre gathering somewhat akin to a funeral.
As the sun came up, we collectively gathered our stuff, carefully observing the outside world for any signs of the Undead. Everything appeared to be quiet so we opened the front door and congregated in the street.
Last night we had decided to form two search parties instead of staying together. We had one 2 way radio, given to us by Lt. Lafferty. One of the groups would take it, the other planned on stopping by the police station to hopefully find another. At this point it was essential for us to split up in order to cover more ground. We had to find more survivors; there had to be more of us that had survived this. None of us wanted to lose contact with the other group though. The reason for that was twofold; the psychological effect of knowing that you’re not completely alone is a good one. And having that auditory lifeline could potentially save the lives that were left in the event of another unexpected breach. None of us wanted to die but in the end, we were going to do whatever we could to preserve the lives that were left.
Since the police station was on the way to the school, we opted to let the other group have the radio. They were going to head toward the hospital, hoping to find more people who had survived. We all said our goodbyes and watched for a moment as they walked away. They all had the determined but wary gait of people used to being on their guard. I hoped that we would see them again.
We turned to move in the opposite direction, heading toward the police station. It was only a short walk away, perhaps a few blocks. Along the way, we stopped to end the suffering any of the remnants of people who deserved some dignity and respect.
Once we got to the police station, we were dismayed to find the front doors open. Wide open. It was a little unnerving to be perfectly frank. What would we find in the confined spaces inside? It was decided that only 2 people would enter the station; Lt. Lafferty and myself. Lt. Lafferty was chosen because she actually knew where we would need to look for a radio. I was chosen because I was the best shot out of all of the other people in the group. I didn’t mind having to go inside. I wanted to find that radio as soon as possible and keep on moving toward school.
Lafferty and I carefully entered the station, all of our senses on high alert. We moved slowly, meticulously clearing each room and cubicle as we passed them. Knowing that the radios were kept in the back of the station, Lafferty lead us there. That was where we found them all.
The pile of skeletal corpses was horrifying and something I’m not likely to forget for years to come (if I live that long). And it was moving. It reminded me of a pot of boiling water; you only really see the disturbance on the surface but if you look closely into the water, you can see the bubbles travelling upward. As the corpses on the bottom of the pile moved, the outer layer responded. Why they were all still in a pile was beyond me. Maybe there was the assumption that underneath all of that bloody mess was a tasty morsel that was missed…
Knowing that we couldn’t have possibly handled them all on our own, we took the easy route out and just closed the door to the conference room. We will go back for them, I promise.
After that, we moved a little faster. We wanted to collect the radio and get the heck out of the station. We really needed to get to the school and see what state it was in. My eyes had prepared me for the worst, but my heart still contained some hope.
Collecting the radio, and adding a second for good measure, we radioed the other group to let them know they could actually reach us now. They were almost to the hospital, only a few more blocks to travel and they would be there. Lafferty spied an open gun cabinet and went to investigate; you can never have too many guns or ammunition during an apocalypse. We loaded up with what was there, unfortunately not a whole heck of a lot and backtracked our way out of the station.
Now it was onto the school and hopefully good news.
As we travelled down the street, there were less and less bodies on the road and on the sidewalks. It appeared to be a promising sign until we noticed the trails of slime on the pavement, all of them leading us in the direction of the school. Was there something alive at the school; someone calling out to them without even realizing it?
We quickly caught up to them, mainly due to the fact that they couldn’t move very fast. Each of us set to work, ending their lives as quickly as we could. None of us wanted them to get any closer to the school.
The schoolyard was worse that we could have ever imagined or prepared ourselves for. From the size of the bloody skeletal corpses on the tarmac, it was obvious that they belonged to children. It was a horrible sight, especially since many of them were moving, heading toward places unknown.
It was hard but we knew we had to help them all find solace. One by one we started to kill them. It was an emotionally painful process and with the first strike, we all had tears streaming down our faces. In the end they may have been the lucky ones; never having to grow up in the world we live in today.
The closer we got to the doors of the school, the more apparent it became that some of the children had managed to escape and get inside to safety. The doors had been chained from the inside but since they open inward, there was just enough space for tiny undead bodies to get in. We prayed that some of the children had managed to get behind an impenetrable door.
With the door chained we had to break in, hoping that the unavoidable noise wouldn’t bring a tiny horde down on our heads. We cautiously entered the hallway lined with grey metal lockers. Coats and backpacks were strewn across the tiled floor; a tiled floor that was so far free from any signs of blood or gore. The deeper that we moved into the school, the more ominously silent that it became. We checked each of the classrooms, opening the doors as we came to them. Nothing. No one was alive, no one was dead. Having cleared the first floor, we moved to the second. It was tense. Each door that we opened, we prepared ourselves to find a massacre. We didn’t find one though.
In the last classroom on the second floor, we found our first clue that perhaps some of them survived the siege. On the blackboard was a list of names. And a message.
“We’ve gone to find a better place to hide.”
No date, no hint. Just the message and all of the names. The names of the children that had survived. Julie and I greedily devoured the names and by the end of the list we had our answer. It was bittersweet. Jane and Lily were on that list. Liam was not. He must have been one of the poor souls out in the playground. Sweet little Liam reduced to a pile of bloody bones.
Realizing that we would have to find the 59 children that had survived, we started to make our way out of the school. It was a joyous moment but one tinged with the ultimate sadness. None of us were really paying attention, most of us lost in our own thoughts. A door to a janitor’s closet opened behind us, the sound alerting me to the presence of someone or something. I turned quickly, bringing up my firearm preparing to take aim. Seeing my reaction, the rest of the group followed suit.
It was at that moment that Liam fainted. It could have been from exhaustion, dehydration, or perhaps the excitement and terror of the ordeal he had lived through. I personally think it was the 8 guns that almost simultaneously trained themselves on him. Fear can do funny things to a body sometimes. The good news is that he is alive and not one of the corpses in the schoolyard. Now it’s just time to find the rest of children.